Kat Armas: [00:00:02] I’m seeing everything that’s being taught to me from the seminary classroom, from the pulpit as THE truth. Right? The only right, whatever truth. I’m hearing all of this, it’s not aligning with my reality. And so I’m starting to ask, how does this fit into the everyday lived experiences of people in the margins? How does this fit into the everyday lived experiences of my abuela, my family? How does this fit? How does this fit?
Chealsia Smedley: [00:00:26] Welcome to the Created For Podcast. A space where our everyday lives intersect with God’s redemptive story.
Michele Davis: [00:00:32] Where together, we learn from diverse voices, explore our unique callings, and pursue communal flourishing.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:00:39] We’re your hosts, Chealsia Smedley,
Michele Davis: [00:00:41] and Michele Davis. Deconstructing and decolonizing are more than Christian buzzwords. They’re kind of like wilderness spaces. At our Created For Wholeness event Kat Armas helped us reclaim the wilderness, not as a place that is lost, but as a place where we can most intimately experience God. Kat is the author of Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us About Wisdom, Persistence and Strength and the author of the upcoming devotional, Sacred Belonging: 40 Days on the Liberating Heart of Scripture. Today, Chealsia and I talked to her about the everyday experiences that shaped her writing. Her work is so important. She is reintroducing us to overlooked stories of faith and perseverance and questioning those assumed notions of the dominant culture so that we can get to God’s heart. Today we get to hear how she practically lives out these things, how God has met her in the midst of deconstruction and decolonization, and how we can see the sacredness of every part of life.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:01:48] Hi Kat, we’re so excited to have you here. I wanted to give you an opportunity just to introduce yourself to our audience.
Kat Armas: [00:01:55] Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be here. My name is Kat Armas. I am a Cuban American author, podcaster, originally from Miami, and I always specify originally from Miami because that really shaped a lot of how I understand the world and spirituality myself. I spent some time in New Orleans and Los Angeles, and now I’m in Nashville. It’s been a journey of deconstructing and decolonizing and all of the weird things that means. I know that those have become buzzwords, but it’s been a beautiful journey, from growing up where my culture was the dominant culture to a space where I’m just figuring out what that means.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:02:34] I’m so excited to talk to you about those things, about deconstructing, decolonizing. You wrote the book Abuelita Faith and I have to say I love this book and have been telling all of my friends to read it. It was so challenging, but also very inspiring. Like one of the first times in a long time that I’m like, I want to go read the Old Testament in the Bible and learn these stories. So, so good.
Kat Armas: [00:02:57] That’s great. I love when folks tell me that. Actually, my two favorite sort of like feedback for Abuelita faith is A, that it’s challenging. So I love that you said that and also that it makes folks want to read the Bible again. I think that was something that I really wanted. I love the Bible. And so anytime someone says that they’re interested in digging back into it, I think that it’s a win. So thank you.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:03:19] No, of course, thank you. In your book, there’s a section where you kind of share a story about being in a hermeneutics class when you were in seminary and realizing that you were taught to leave your identity, cultural lens and experiences at the door when it came to theology and not to gain this ‘neutral lens’, which I’m saying with quotation marks, but to actually assimilate under the interpretation of a white male centric framework. And leaving that seminary, you realize that you were on this path of deconstruction and decolonization. So could you share a little bit more about that?
Kat Armas: [00:03:53] Yeah, I was raised in a context where my culture was the dominant culture. So that means that once I left my little bubble of Miami, I realized, ‘Wow, the rest of the world is not this way, or at least the rest of the US is not this way’. All of my teachers and family members and community were all Latino, Latina and Latinx, and I was raised with a very specific lens. Right? I also was raised by a single mother and a single grandmother. And so a lot of my upbringing was very matriarchal. My mother and my grandmother were the providers in the family.
Kat Armas: [00:04:29] It was leaving my Cuban matriarchal mind frame and stepping into a culture where it was a white evangelical context, as you mentioned, but that was very patriarchal. We were told that we need to submit and we were told all of these things. And they just didn’t align with my reality and even my culture, machismo is just huge in the Latinx culture. So not to say that that’s not a reality, but they just didn’t align with my reality. You know, it wasn’t necessarily that I felt in that moment because I didn’t and I wanted to follow the so called rules that I was supposed to follow. But I just began to question, ‘Oh, wait a minute. What about those of us who just isn’t a reality for us, right? Like, how are we supposed to live this out?’ It led to many existential crises because I thought like, ‘God, why, if this is the way that I’m supposed to quote unquote “be”, then why was I raised by a single mother?’ It was all of these things that just didn’t add up. And that’s when I began to really dig into history and dig into research of women in church history and women across the globe and women even in the Bible. You know, what is the context that a lot of times we’re missing? And that really began my journey of what we call deconstruction, decolonization and just asking difficult questions about the Bible. What are the stories of these women? How did they live out their faith? Stories of women taking on certain roles that are different than what would be prescribed in culture, right? Stepping up in certain ways, even within a patriarchal context. And so I think that was my experience where I began to really ask these questions. And that’s when I began to realize this is a cultural thing, right? This is not something that is the norm across different communities.
Michele Davis: [00:06:14] Yeah, it’s a cultural thing, but it’s often presented like a theological truth. How can I reconcile my personal biases that I have here? Like there’s things that I want to be true and how do I sort that out with what is true?
Kat Armas: [00:06:28] Yeah. Yeah. I think you bring up a really good point. And that was the struggle that I faced. It was this is presented as the capital T-H-E, the only true right you-name-it way. And I think that’s something that I’m trying to argue in Abuelita Faith is that there is wisdom in all of these different communities, my community included. There is wisdom in my grandmother who is uneducated, immigrant, poor. All these things about her gives her a wisdom that we cannot glean in the classroom or through certain lenses. And so I think that what I’m trying to get at is that when something is presented as the only true right, whatever way, and that’s coming from a specific cultural lens, I think that’s where you get into some trouble because you’re excluding the majority of the world. We’re all going to bring our own biases into everything that we do. I think the issue is knowing what those biases are and naming them. I think that’s where there’s a difference. In the first chapter of Abuelita Faith, it’s actually one of my own favorite lines in my own book. I don’t even remember it verbatim, but I say something along the lines of ‘everything that I say is subjective.’ Everything that I say is my own thoughts on this. I would never pretend or never position myself as someone who has all the truth and knowledge. I don’t think there is one right way to worship or understand God. Now, of course, when I say that, I mean there are certain things that we believe as Christians that make us Christian.
Kat Armas: [00:08:06] I think that’s true. But to say that we can look at our faith or the Bible completely void of any bias, I don’t believe that that can happen at all. So there’s nothing wrong with bringing your biases. I think the issue is when you don’t name them, know them or bring those biases into conversation with what you are studying. When you ask the first question about this journey of deconstruction being in this hermeneutics class, I think that’s the tension that I ran into, was that this cultural understanding was presented as the only right true et cetera, et cetera way. And I think that’s where just things began to unravel for me because I thought, ‘well, how can this be if this is not the reality for the rest of the world?’ There are a lot of different spaces from where we all come from. And also just recognizing that this life is because of all of our experiences and the history of our ancestors, not something that I try and talk a lot about in Abuelita Faith. I bear all of these things on my shoulders, all of the histories of those who came before me. And I think that also needs to be brought into conversation when we do theology, because that shapes how we understand the world, how we think about the world, how we think about God. Right?
Chealsia Smedley: [00:09:21] When you were talking about this journey, there were two things that you brought up, like asking difficult questions about the Bible and then seeking out these stories of women who played different roles. Can you share more about that?
Kat Armas: [00:09:33] Yeah, well, I think for me, placing myself in these stories in this context, you know, and also, like I’ve been mentioning, putting it into conversation with my life. So, for example, the question that I ask in Abuelita Faith is what if the greatest theologians the world has ever known are those whom the world wouldn’t consider theologians at all? And that’s sort of the question that shaped all of my other questions. And I started asking that question because again, I’m seeing everything that’s being taught to me from the seminary classroom, from the pulpit as the truth. Right? The only right, whatever truth. I’m hearing all of this, it’s not aligning with my reality. And so I’m starting to ask, how does this fit into the everyday lived experiences of people in the margins? How does this fit into the everyday lived experiences of my abuela, my family? How does this fit? How does this fit? I started there and then as I was reading scripture with an eye focused on women and not just the Esther’s or the Ruth’s. I do mention them in my book, but also with an eye focus on just the sort of the women in passing. So I say that the Bible is a book written by men and for men. It’s just the truth, right? It was written by mostly men and it was written for the men, right? Because that’s who read and teach and all of that. So anyways, a book written by men for men. So a lot of the women’s stories are just mentioned in passing, right? Like you have Rizpah, for example, one of my favorite stories I have a whole chapter on here.
Kat Armas: [00:10:57] But if you actually read the story, it’s like three lines, like it’s not very long. She’s mentioned twice for like a sentence or two. And so I think that’s where I wanted to begin. Okay, so her story is just two sentences long. But wait a minute. Let’s see what happened. What’s the trajectory of her story? Where does she enter and what changes after she’s mentioned? And that’s when I started realizing is that so many of these women, like things happened in relation to their stories. It wasn’t just like they were mentioned and the story went on. No, the story shifted and changed the story of risk. Again, if you read her story, she changes the entire course of Israel’s history. There was a famine. It had been going on for three years. Her sons are murdered. She engages in a peaceful protest and all of a sudden it was because of her protest that David notices and then ends up inquiring of God, how do we wrong some rights? The wrongs are righted, and then God sends rain. And it’s all because of her protest. That was like two sentences long that most people don’t really catch. And as I’m reading these stories, I’m realizing, wait a minute, Rizpah’s protest, which takes up very little space in scripture, changed history. How many more of those stories do we see throughout history? And as I began doing my research, I realized literally so many, like most of them. Right? And so that’s what I’m trying to present in my book, is not just that, Oh, look at the cool thing these women did. Look how women are changing history.
Kat Armas: [00:12:26] Their stories are just untold. And so I have stories of women in Cuba who have done that. Indigenous women in Brazil who are doing this. The stories are endless, but it’s just a matter of telling them. And then also looking at my own grandmother’s life and the stories of women throughout history and thinking, how does this intersect with the biblical text? Oh my goodness. In so many ways, my grandmother, she sewed. And then you have here in acts, you have Tabitha, who all we know about her, she’s called disciple, by the way. But all we know about her is that she sewed. So what does that tell me? That her act of sewing is more than just something in passing. You know, her act of sewing is a theological, spiritual act. In fact, just before her story is mentioned, we hear about how the widows were overlooked. And so they had to appoint seven men, all of these things. But here you have Tabitha, like a couple cities away doing this very thing that there’s like this huge argument in the church over and she’s doing it like by herself, just figuring it out. And she’s doing that through the work of her hands. And so I say that theology is embodied. She’s not preaching in a pulpit, but she’s still doing the thing that God says to do, take care of the widows. So all of these connections, I’m saying, wait a minute, my grandmother sewed just like Tabitha. And I’m realizing, wait a minute, what if those are the greatest theologians we’ve ever known. We just have overlooked them all this.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:13:45] That is so powerful. Just seeing these stories of how scripture actually does intersect with our everyday lives from the things that we do to like things like sewing. So I think so many people who are deconstructing, thinking about their faith right now are in a similar place of saying, okay, my faith and what I’m experiencing in the world have been taught to me in a way that feels really separate and fragmented. Like we have this thing of our ethnic identities and our identities as Christian. They don’t go together or this is spiritual and this is sacred. And so I think that you do a great job of bringing those things together. And so I just wanted to ask, when you think about wholeness, like what comes to mind and how can we experience wholeness in the spiritual and the everyday?
Kat Armas: [00:14:42] Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’m very passionate about this idea of not separating our mind from our bodies and not fragmenting ourselves as we’ve been because of the Enlightenment and colonialism. We’ve been taught to elevate the mind over the body. And we see throughout history how this has resulted in exploitation, slavery in so much oppression. And so I think that in order to decolonize, we do have to reconnect to our body, reconnect to the land. So when I think about wholeness, that’s what I think about. I think about reconnecting all of these fragmented pieces of ourselves. I think of the very first, the Genesis story. I love the image God breathes into the human and from the soil. The human is I mean, these are all very embodied images. It’s breath and it’s soil and it’s animals and it’s land and it’s all of these things. And it’s also an intimate connection between God and all of these things. Right? There’s no disconnect. It really is this embodied material thing. And I love using the word material because it’s been given such a bad image in our fragmentation of who we are. And so when I think of wholeness, what are the ways that all of this comes together and how can we think of this spiritually? How can we think of this theologically? Miriam, her dancing and her celebrating and her worshiping of God that had to do with her mind and her body. Everything. Wholeness to me is reconnecting to all of the parts that make us human. And we cannot survive without the land, without the earth. We cannot survive without the sunshine and the sunsets. And we cannot survive without oxygen. And so how do we live a fully integrated life?
Kat Armas: [00:16:31] For me, I experienced a genuine reconnection to my faith, a genuine intimacy with God. Once I really started to reconnect with those parts of myself, I have a chapter Abuelita Faith of gardening. You know, how abuela had her hands in the dirt and that for her was life and it was sustenance. And those were spiritual moments for me using her hands to sew, as I’ve mentioned, cooking food to serve the community. You read all of scripture and so much of it, I would say the majority of it is or all of it, dare I say, all of it. It all involves every part of ourselves, right? Jesus ate and drank and walked and slept and all of these things with those that he was serving. He physically died, like a bodily death and there was a bodily resurrection. He resurrected with his wounds still there, which I think that’s also important to keep in mind. Like his broken body was still a part of the resurrection. When I think about wholeness, I think about how we can connect our minds to our bodies, to the earth, to our ancestors. Right? As I mentioned earlier, to those who came before us, what are the stories that shaped me? How do they reflect or how do I think because of what my ancestors have been through? Yeah, I think that’s wholeness, reconnecting forwards and backwards and up and down, you know, every direction.
Michele Davis: [00:17:53] Yeah, I really appreciate that. You talked about some practices that helped you with that, how gardening can be a spiritual experience and physically serving. I think to my early days as a mom, how at first taking care of my baby and changing diapers did not feel spiritual. But I realized I have to find God there or or I will shrivel up and die in my heart. Like, oh yeah, my time is different. I have to reconnect there. And I’m curious for you as you are growing and are not just the daughter and granddaughter, but moving into other seasons of your life, what’s that like for you? And especially in thinking about the research you’ve done and this really brilliant idea you’ve put forth about seeing the theology of those who are caring for their families, who are in the margins, who might be overlooked, and you’re moving through seasons of your life and children. What’s that like for you?
Kat Armas: [00:18:46] Yeah, so I can totally relate because I have a toddler right now. My time is I don’t even know what it is anymore. I’m trying to find it in the in the cracks of, you know, everything. But, but for me, I think what’s been really beautiful in this season as my, my quote unquote, my ‘roles’ are changing and the seasons are changing. Um, it’s for me, it’s been really beautiful to not just see people and things and situations as empty objects, void of their own wisdom. And I’ll explain what I mean in a second. But seeing how we are in partnership and how all created things are in partnership with God. So what I mean by this is my daughter is a year, almost a year and a half and we hear so much about how, oh, well, you know, God speaks through your children. I don’t necessarily think God just speaks through her. I think she speaks for herself through the divine wisdom that God has given her. I don’t see humans as just sort of these objects of, you know, well, God uses us and we have no agency. And no, I think that we are given divine wisdom. We are given God given intuition, God given experiences and insights and all of these things, all of what makes us who we are and they’re all God given. Right? It is through our journey of living and being human and grieving and celebrating and holding the tensions and all of these complicated things of what it means to be human. And all of that gives us insight into the human experience. And that’s something I love about the Bible.
Kat Armas: [00:20:28] The Bible is like a hot mess sometimes. There’s just so much in there that you’re just like, what? But I really think it’s a beautiful picture of the messiness of being human, the grief and the joy and the sorrow and the anger and the frustration and the doubt and all the things together in one. And so I think in this season of life where I had really an existential crisis, I felt like, of course, I’m sure every new parent goes through this. Like, what am I? What is this? But I think it was starting to see how everything around me has a wisdom to impart.
Kat Armas: [00:21:02] I just finished the manuscript for my second book, and that’s been something that has been so fresh on my mind is just, you know, when you see any nature documentary and you see how interspecies animals like communicate, like birds and wolves and it’s just, it’s beautiful and it’s phenomenal and it’s divine and it’s sacred and it’s all this God given wisdom. And I think I see that in my kid. There is a wisdom in her. It just blows me away. She’s teaching me so much and it’s just all I have to do is just watch her. You know what I mean? Like I say, like, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to teach her.’ But there’s a lot of times where the best thing I can do is not teach her anything and let her teach me. And so I think as I move and as I grow and as I continue to be a human in this complicated world, I think so much of it is allowing the natural world, allowing people to bear wisdom of their own that is God given, that is divine, but to allow myself to learn from them, to listen to them, and by them literally from the natural world to children to marginalized folks. And I think that’s part of what I talk about in Abuelita Faith, just a wisdom that we are overlooking on the margins, because the wisdom that is not degreed, you know, the wisdom, there’s no master of theology behind it, the wisdom that is not written in a book, the wisdom that is not even in the, you know, lived in the mind, but in the body, in each other. I’ve written about this before and I might have written about Abuelita Faith, but I talk about how we’re told to love God with every part of ourselves. We’re told to love God with our hearts, minds and souls. But then at the very same time, we’re also told all of the things that make up our heart, mind and soul, our passions, our creativity that put those aside because they can’t be trusted. And so I think in order to love God with every part of yourself, I think you have to bring every part of yourself to the table. And doing so means that we are not these empty vessels void of any agency or thought or desire. We are passionate, creative creatures and I think that viewing that as us in a divine conversation, I think it changes how we view us in relationship with God and with others, our children, our peers, everyone.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:23:09] Yeah, I love the way that you are able to show how all of life is sacred and all of life has something for us to learn from. There isn’t this bad part that is just get through it kind of thing. So when we talk about these spaces of uncertainty and exile, you talked about that in your Created For talk. How did you begin to see even that space as sacred? Because I think a lot of people are like, Oh man, I’m struggling. Maybe I’m going to be a heretic. I don’t know. You know?
Kat Armas: [00:23:39] Yeah. Oh yeah. So I think it kind of goes back to this questioning of what is presented as right, true, normal, et cetera. And I’ve seen what’s presented to us as a space of wisdom or knowledge looks a certain way, whether it’s the degrees or the pulpits or the men or the suits or whatever. But for the rest of the world, life is complicated and messy and people emigrate. People go on journeys, spiritual exile journeys constantly in motion. We’re constantly doubting and figuring it out. And I think a lot of it has to do, I think, with a colonial mindset, which is very dichotomous and black and white and binary, when that’s not the reality of life, you know. And so I do tie that to this idea of colonialism, this idea of right and wrong, good, bad. And not to say that there’s no such thing as bad or right or wrong, but what I’m saying is that life is more complicated than that. Reality is more complicated than that. We hold many different tensions as humans.
Kat Armas: [00:24:41] And so I think that for me, coming to terms with that and learning to sit well in the tension of what it means to be human, knowing that I don’t have all the answers, but I still have great faith or knowing that my ancestors have been through so much trauma, but also there’s so much beauty and so much joy to celebrate. Even just the tension of being someone who is not part of the dominant culture. But also I’m western, right? I’m educated, so I live in this tension of both/and. So it was really embracing this both/and that I began to see, wait a minute, this idea of exile, which why has the dominant culture so convinced us that permanency in location or in belief is somehow holier? Where did we get this idea that we don’t shift or, or and we know that we grow, we know that we, but for some reason, you know, when we find ourselves in the midst of this shift, in the midst of this, you know, these seasons of transition, it’s almost like they’re seen as negative or they’re seen as weaker. But then I started thinking about exile, my family’s physical exile or just even physical exile in the Bible, like Miriam. And I’d talk about her. And then I realized that it was in this exile. And usually exile was in the wilderness, which I love because the wild is often seen as a scary, dangerous place. But it was always in the wild. It was always in the wilderness. It was always in these uncertain places where God was most intimately acquainted with God’s people, right? It was in the wilderness where God was right there. I mean, Jacob wrestled with God in the wilderness. Rizpah going back to her. She changed the course of Israel’s history while in the wilderness. Like all of these things happen in the wilderness.
Kat Armas: [00:26:22] What if they reclaimed this exiled identity? What if we reclaim this wilderness space? Not as one to feel shame about, not as one to try and get out of as fast as we can, but as this space is one of deep intimacy and communion with God even, and especially in the uncertainty, in the doubt. What if we made that place our home? And many people have. Right? Again, my grandmother, I think of a physical exile. But there’s so many ways you can think of this spiritually or theologically. But, you know, my grandmother, she’s been in this country for 50 years and she’ll still tell me once she dies, her bones will be buried in a land not her own, like she is in a perpetual exile, you know? Yeah. And I just find that so fascinating, if you think about it spiritually and theologically, because she has made a home there. And when she says, ‘my bones will be buried in a land not my own’, I’m sure there’s sadness and pain there, but there’s also an acceptance. There’s probably also joy there, too. She’s had beautiful experiences in this country. She came here for a reason, right? I just think of that of this idea of holding this tension and realizing that this is home. We don’t have to pretend or live as if the majority of life doesn’t happen in these tension zones.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:27:41] So I think this idea of reclaiming that space is really compelling and exciting. I do wonder how you do that. Like, I can imagine someone listening to this and being like, that sounds great Kat, but I feel isolated and tired. How do I reclaim that?
Kat Armas: [00:27:59] Yeah, well, I think finding like minded people who are here and I think there’s a lot of us that are here. I think that’s even the reason why this conference, right, was created. I think it’s because so many of us find ourselves in this tension. And I think a lot of it is is recognizing that we are not alone in this. And I think the dominant culture does a really good job of making you feel, you know, like if you’re the only one I know, I was going through a lot of these existential crises. You know, I felt very isolated and alone. Like I’m the only one that feels this way or thinks this way. And the reality is that that’s not true. I think a lot of us are constantly in the tension zone. We just might be afraid to speak up because we’ve been shamed. When we do speak up or we’ve been made to feel as if we’re the only ones. But I don’t think that’s true. And so how do we find a home here? Well, I think it’s a matter of looking back at all the places where you have been most intimately acquainted with God. I look back in so many moments and I think, wow, God was there and God was there and God was there. And in the moment, I may not have known. In fact, this was one of my favorite little things in the Bible.
Kat Armas: [00:29:03] And I began to make this a practice. So maybe this is something that folks can do. You find it throughout Scripture. It’s Jacob and Abraham and Moses and so many of the patriarchs. I think you can even consider, maybe Hagar is one of them. But, you know, folks will be sort of just living their lives doing something. For Jacob, he’s sleeping or whatever, and all of a sudden, like, they’ll have this spiritual experience, this spiritual moment. In a moment, they have no idea. It’s like this spiritual moment. And then literally, like Jacob’s case, he’ll wake up and realize, wait a minute, God was here. And he literally says that like, ‘wait a minute, God was here’. And I had no idea. And I think that is so powerful because it’s so relatable. Like we just go throughout our entire lives, whether it’s because we’re busy or whatever it is, because we’re human and we don’t notice all of these sacred, beautiful, divine moments happening again because we’re human. Like, I don’t want folks to feel shame about this. And then it takes it really does take a contemplative spirit. It really does take someone who is willing to stop and look around and pay attention to recognize, oh, wait a minute, God was here.
Kat Armas: [00:30:10] You know, I currently live in Nashville and I had just moved here and I was pregnant and I was like just dying to find community. And I felt so lonely and all the things. And my husband and I, one day we went for a walk around the neighborhood and we ran into this elderly couple and they were just so sweet. And they had this little dog that was almost dying. I mean, it was like blind and couldn’t walk. And they would just carry it on a walk. It was like the sweetest thing. They would go on a walk and carry their dog. And we met them right outside our back gate. And so we had this wonderful chat with them and we walked off in opposite directions. And when we turned back around the block, they were still standing in the same spot that we had met them right outside our back gate, but they were surrounded by literally every single one of our neighbors. And they were like, ‘hey, have you met your neighbors?’ ‘No, actually, you know, we just moved. We hadn’t’. Anyway, to make a long story short, we met all of our neighbors. We exchanged phone numbers, our dogs. I mean, it was beautiful. That night. I got into bed and we just felt for the first time, just so full and so joyous. And we were like, okay. We felt like for the first time we could start building a home here.
Kat Armas: [00:31:07] And, you know, it’s lonely when you first move and you don’t know anyone and you’re trying to build a family. And so it was a really beautiful moment and we kind of laughed. We’re like, were they angels? Like, they just appeared out of nowhere. I will say, I’ve never seen them again. Not to say that this is the point isn’t that they were angels, although I really do think they were. But the point is not that they were angels, but it was after that moment we got into bed and, you know, we were just so joyful and so happy. And the next day, I just, I went out for a walk again and I thought, wait a minute. Last night was sacred. Like that was a beautiful, divine, sacred moment. It was simple and it wasn’t anything that I would have normally thought twice about, right? It was just an encounter I had with some neighbors. But it changed so much of my reality here. It changed how I interact with the people who live closest to me. It changed how I walked around my neighborhood. I mean, it changed so much. So I got six little stones like they do in the Bible. And I built a little altar right there by the gate. The altar is still there. And I think about it all the time.
Kat Armas: [00:31:59] I think about that moment that my house felt like a home for the first time. And it was simple, but it was in the midst. I can and I say this looking back, I felt like I was in an exiled place spiritually, and I had no community and I was just going through this huge life change all by myself in a new place. And it felt in that moment, you know, quite simple. I know this might not be a super deep example, but it felt like a quite simple time of my life that I felt in somewhat of an exile and building this little stone of remembrance. I look back at that time and I can remember, you know, this notion of remember, God always says in Scripture, remember, remember, remember. Remember where you came from. Remember what I’ve done for you. And I think a lot of it has to do with remembering. So maybe that’s something that folks can, you know, a small spiritual practice, whether it’s writing something down, building a little altar, any way to commemorate sacred moments and sacred spaces. I think those are important, too. And just remembering that God was there and in the moment it didn’t feel like it maybe didn’t know. But I think it takes a contemplative spirit to really commemorate and consecrate these moments and remember that God was there.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:33:12] So just really like that touched me. The building, that little altar of stones and commemorating. I’m currently in a lot of transition and just thinking, where is God in the midst of all of everything that feels unstable and the idea of even if it feels tiny. Yeah. And like no one else is going to think this was great, only me. But like, God showed up here.
Kat Armas: [00:33:37] Oh, yeah, yeah. Write it down. You know, little moments, Tuesday at 7 p.m.. I thought about this or I remembered this, or someone brought me an ice cream, whatever, you know, to write it down. Yeah, because I think life is made up of a lot of these little tiny, sacred, seemingly insignificant to the rest of the world moments. But these are the moments that change us and shape us. And these are the experiences where it really can build a really deep intimacy with God. But again, it takes a contemplative spirit to recognize these things. And we’re human, right? We’re constantly buzzing through life. And I think we’re also, as Christians, told, that God only appears in the big moments. We want like the Jericho walls falling and we want the trumpets and all the things. And but if you honestly read the Bible, it’s not made up of all of those big Goliath moments. So much of how people are connecting with God are in the dreams or in the wrestling with God and the random. These seemingly, like I said, insignificant to the rest of the world. But to you or to the person experiencing them, it’s everything. Yeah.
Michele Davis: [00:34:46] Yeah. That makes sense. Like God’s here in the meals, in my home, in my family and my relationships. That it just tracks and it makes so much sense. I also noticed you were talking about like, sacred moments and sacred spaces, and you have another book coming out called Sacred Belonging, A 40 Day Devotional on the Liberating Heart of Scripture. I’d love to just hear more about that, like a teaser. Just maybe share a little with us what you communicate there and just more about that book.
Kat Armas: [00:35:16] Yeah, what I just shared is one of the reflections on it. So there you go. Awesome.
Michele Davis: [00:35:20] Awesome.
Kat Armas: [00:35:22] So it’s a devotional for those of us, first and foremost, for those of us who don’t typically read devotionals, I start off saying that I haven’t read a devotional in years, but I think it’s because I’ve been longing for something that is short and reflective, but also is going to take me deeper and challenge me. So this book is separated into five sections and it’s wisdom, the body, the spirit, the feminine and creation. And so I go through 40 days. I go through the ways that God meets us in these different places, creation. And a lot of what I shared earlier about how we reconnect, you know, and trust that God’s wisdom flows in and through the world and to trust that God wants us to live full integrated lives. And I think that starts with just finding the divine in all things.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:36:09] When does it come out?
Kat Armas: [00:36:12] September 12th.
Michele Davis: [00:36:13] I just pre-ordered it. You went through those five themes. I was like, I need this now. Dot dot dot dot dot. Within 15 seconds it’s mine.
Kat Armas: [00:36:23] So it makes me so happy. Thank you so much for pre-ordering. And yes, I will admit it was very hard to write because, you know, I was like, What? What are some of the things that Christians, you know, upsets them? And I want to see like why? And, you know, like I really just wanted to investigate some of these things. Anyway, it was, it was hard, but it was so much fun.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:36:43] I love that. It’s really fun. It’s been so great. I have one last question. So in light of all that we talked about today, how would you encourage someone to participate in God’s redemption of their communities if they, like, don’t know where to start?
Kat Armas: [00:36:58] Yeah, well, I’ll just stick to what I’ve been kind of harping on and allow yourself the freedom to find God, whether it’s the people that you weren’t taught or trained to look to as sources of wisdom or the things or the moments. Having a contemplative heart and a contemplative spirit to allow God to speak to you in all of the grandiose or simple ways that God does, and expecting that God’s going to move and speak. And I think I mentioned that when it comes to Miriam. Miriam expected that there would be a miracle, right? Like she carried a timbrel. And I’d like to say in her back pocket where she carried a timbrel with her. And I love how in the Midrash, some Jewish scholars, they’re like, ‘Hey, we haven’t realized, like the wisdom that Miriam holds in that,’ like when they were like, ‘Get out of here, now, go. They’re after you’. She was like, All right, let me grab my essentials. And included in the essentials was an instrument of celebration. And I think that is just so incredible. Sure, yes, she was expecting that God would perform a miracle. But just the fact that she was expectant. I think that is just a source of wisdom. And so I think for all of us, just be expectant of God. And in that, I think that we can participate in a lot of God’s activity if we’re expecting it.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:38:17] Kat has given us example after example of how God meets us, especially in moments of tension and uncertainty in both the big moments and also the small moments of our everyday life. So what would it look like for you to experience wholeness by becoming more aware of God’s presence this week? How can you remember the ways he’s met you and your ancestors in the past? And act in expectance that he’ll continue to show up in the future.
Michele Davis: [00:38:46] For more ways to continue journeying with us, hit Subscribe in your favorite podcast app, check out the show notes for any links we referenced and then go to cru.org/createdfor for a guided reflection based on this episode.